#LeadershipStandard Framework for South Africa: A common language for leaders by Marius Meyer

October 26, 2017
New SABPP book on HR Risk Management: HR Risk Management: Managing People Risks and Leveraging Opportunities by Marius Meyer & Penny Abbott
October 26, 2017

On 14 September 2017 a group of HR and other managers convened to develop a leadership standard for South Africa. The session was facilitated by the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP).  The purpose of the project is to provide a set of clear guidelines for leadership on how to become effective leaders.  After a period of consultation the leadership standard was launched on 26 October in Kyalami, Johannesburg.  The current reality is that we face a lack of leadership in the private sector, government and non-profit organisations.  Some organisations are underperforming because of poor leadership, despite pockets of excellence throughout the country.

Now that the we have developed a leadership standard for South Africa, it is good to see that so many stakeholders have expressed an interest in participating in this historic exercise.  The focus of the project is to create a consistent standard for achieving leadership outcomes in ensuring that the goals of organisations are achieved.   Clearly, leadership is the most important factor in achieving organisational success and raising the bar for leaders with an explicit leadership standard is therefore of utmost importance.

It was decided to develop a draft framework which was further refined as we made progress on the leadership standard journey.  After several iterations the first version of the leadership standard launched on 26 October is as follows:

The South African leadership standard framework consists of four key principles underlying the five elements of leadership:

  • Leadership philosophy: It is essential that a leader has an explicit philosophy on leadership.  The leadership philosophy outlines the thinking and beliefs about leadership. It answers the questions: What do I believe as a leader? Why is leadership important for me and my organisation?
  • Tone at the top: The tone at the top filters down to all staff, but in essence it means the leader sets the tone at the top and the example of the leader is then followed by others in the organisation. A commitment to ethics and high performance from the top is essential for the whole organisation.
  • Organisation culture: Leaders determine the organisation culture, in other words how things are done at the organisation.
  • Leadership outcomes: Finally, the organisation achieves certain goals as a result of the leadership of its leaders, including how they influence staff to execute the strategy.

The five elements of leadership are depicted in the inner circle of the leadership framework:

  1. Instilling a Vision: A leader’s vision is a succinct description of what the leader wants to achieve in broad terms. In essence, the vision depicts the dream of the leader.
  2. Delivering Results which Create Value: All oganisations deliver value to stakeholders in the form of products or services.  The leader should ensure that results are delivered in the form of the explicit value of products and services in meeting the needs of stakeholders.
  3. Living the Values: The values of leaders guide their behaviour, and that of their team members.
  4. Influencing people: Leaders achieve goals through people, and the ability to lead people and teams is therefore a key element of the leadership standard.
  5. Reflecting for Improvement: Lastly, leaders should continuously learn, seek feedback and reflect on their behaviour and actions to identify opportunities for improvement.

In the light of the above explanation, it is evident that the leadership standard framework provides a clear illustration of what leadership is all about.   The leadership standard framework will guide the further facilitation and development of the standard as it unfolds during the implementation process. It provides a picture of the key elements of leadership to guide the thinking and actions of leaders as they lead their organisations and its people on a daily basis.  I wish all leaders success in the application of the leadership standard and on their own leadership journeys towards leadership excellence.


Marius Meyer is CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) and author of 21 books for Juta, Van Schaik, Lexis-Nexis, Knowledge Resources and more than 500 articles for magazines such as HR Future, HR Voice, Talent Talks, Leadership Online and Achiever Magazine.  Use the hashtag #LeadershipStandard for further articles and follow SABPP on twitter @SABPP1 or Talent Talks on @talenttalksnet  or by visiting the website www.sabpp.co.za